Abortion as Insurance

44 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2002 Last revised: 26 Oct 2010

See all articles by Phillip B. Levine

Phillip B. Levine

Wellesley College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Douglas Staiger

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2002

Abstract

This paper views abortion access as an insurance policy that protects women from unwanted pregnancies. Within this framework, we present a theoretical model where greater access provides value in the form of insurance against unwanted births and also reduces the incentive to avoid pregnancy. This model predicts that legalized abortion should lead to a reduction in the likelihood of giving birth. It also predicts that if abortion access becomes relatively inexpensive (including both monetary and psychic costs), then pregnancies would rise and births would remain unchanged or may even rise as well. We review the evidence on the impact of changes in abortion policy mainly from the United States and find support for both predictions. Then we test these hypotheses using recent changes in abortion policy in several Eastern European countries. We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well. These findings are consistent with the incentive effect implications of our model.

Suggested Citation

Levine, Phillip B. and Staiger, Douglas, Abortion as Insurance (February 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w8813. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=302574

Phillip B. Levine (Contact Author)

Wellesley College ( email )

106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02181
United States
781-283-2162 (Phone)
781-283-2177 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Douglas Staiger

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-643-2979 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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